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Consciousness and Evolution - March 5th, 2012, 06:24 PM

The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution cannot explain why consciousness (i.e. subjective awareness) was naturally selected. Why? Because something that is invisible and causally inert cannot possibly confer any survival benefit. (On the materialist view, consciousness is considered to be an epiphenomenon and therefore causally inert. Any materialist who would argue otherwise is presupposing "free will" - a presupposition that is incompatible with materialism.)

This is not a trivial issue; it's paramount because consciousness goes to the heart of the matter. The primary difference between a materialistic worldview and a spiritual one is that the former holds that the physical world can exist completely independent of consciousness - that the objective world does not depend on any subjectivity whatsoever; the latter categorically rejects this notion.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 07:42 PM

What is you definition of consciousness? Self-awareness I believe is what your getting at.

I personally believe the self awareness we experience is purely the result of an enlarged brain. We did not magically one day just have a developed language (the key to our self awareness), these were developed through natural selection. Solving problems, like how to bring down that Mammoth, involved high level thinking, developing tools, noticing migration habits, keeping calendars, all possible because we could communicate with our peers, and all of these things did help us survive. Those better at it were more likely to survive.

Language is key to self-awareness, and is personally where I think we moved from beast to something more. It puts words to thought, puts ideas together, allows a transfer of knowledge down to generations, allows us to ask questions that would not have a concept.

I also think that some degree of self-awareness exists in other animals, Dolphins and Chimpanzees with there group activities and "playful" behaviors. The both do things that are purely to feel good, so do many other animals (predominantly mammals). I think self awareness is not solely a human trait, just most noticeable with us.

As for consciousness, there are theories that it can exists in atoms, that consciousness is existent in all matter, since it is really just based on energy, and the basis of matter really is energy (see quarks, electrons, ect...). It is not self aware of anything at all. Just that the mere act of existing is consciousness.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 07:57 PM

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Originally Posted by PananThe View Post
What is you definition of consciousness? Self-awareness I believe is what your getting at.
Did you read the OP? I defined "consciousness" as "subjective awareness."

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[Consciousness] has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel.

(source: Wikipedia: Consciousness)
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Originally Posted by PananThe View Post
As for consciousness, there are theories that it can exists in atoms, that consciousness is existent in all matter, since it is really just based on energy, and the basis of matter really is energy (see quarks, electrons, ect...). It is not self aware of anything at all. Just that the mere act of existing is consciousness.
You're describing pantheism, not atheistic materialism.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 08:03 PM

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Originally Posted by Damian View Post
The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution cannot explain why consciousness (i.e. subjective awareness) was naturally selected. Why? Because something that is invisible and causally inert cannot possibly confer any survival benefit. (On the materialist view, consciousness is considered to be an epiphenomenon and therefore causally inert. Any materialist who would argue otherwise is presupposing "free will" - a presupposition that is incompatible with materialism.) …
I fail to see what being invisible has to do with it.

And I have a dramatically different view of what consciousness does than you if you believe it is “inert” – providing no survival benefit.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 08:18 PM

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Originally Posted by DavisBJ View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Damian
The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution cannot explain why consciousness (i.e. subjective awareness) was naturally selected. Why? Because something that is invisible and causally inert cannot possibly confer any survival benefit. (On the materialist view, consciousness is considered to be an epiphenomenon and therefore causally inert. Any materialist who would argue otherwise is presupposing "free will" - a presupposition that is incompatible with materialism.)

I fail to see what being invisible has to do with it
.
A visible characteristic or trait (e.g. stripes on a tiger) may confer some survival benefit. An invisible (and causally inert) one cannot.

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And I have a dramatically different view of what consciousness does than you if you believe it is “inert” – providing no survival benefit.
No, you don't. You're simply presupposing "free will" (as I stated in the OP) and therefore some form of dualism.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 08:27 PM

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A visible characteristic or trait (e.g. stripes on a tiger) may confer some survival benefit. An invisible (and causally inert) one cannot.
Sure it can. Consciousness offers enormous survival benefits to human beings.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 08:34 PM

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Sure it can. Consciousness offers enormous survival benefits to human beings.
How can something that is invisible and causally inert confer an enormous survival benefit?



   
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March 5th, 2012, 08:37 PM

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How can something that is invisible and causally inert confer an enormous survival benefit?
Consciousness is not causally inert. Here is one reason it causally influences survival: it makes us afraid of death. Not just averse to pain like an animal, but intellectually and spiritually afraid. There are many others.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 09:11 PM

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Originally Posted by Damian
How can something that is invisible and causally inert confer an enormous survival benefit?
Consciousness is not causally inert. Here is one reason it causally influences survival: it makes us afraid of death. Not just averse to pain like an animal, but intellectually and spiritually afraid. There are many others.
The problem here is that you're NOT assuming the mechanistic worldview on which materialism (and the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution) is predicated. The materialist views living organisms literally (not metaphorically) as "organic robots." So, you have to explain why a SENTIENT stimulus-response system (i.e. an "organic robot WITH consciousness") was naturally selected over an INSENTIENT stimulus-response system (i.e. an "organic robot WITHOUT consciousness"). Unless you're willing to ascribe some kind of "feeling awareness" to all "stimulus-response systems," then it logically follows that "feeling awareness" is not required for a "stimulus-response system" to respond to environmental stimuli.

Academic philosophers typically employ the concept of a "philosophical zombie" (rather than an "organic robot" or a "stimulus-response system") to make the same point.

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Philosophers, however, have suggested that consciousness would not be necessary for any functional advantage in evolutionary processes.[89] No one has given a causal explanation, they argue, of why it would not be possible for a functionally equivalent non-conscious organism (i.e., a philosophical zombie) to achieve the very same survival advantages as a conscious organism. If evolutionary processes are blind to the difference between function F being performed by conscious organism O and non-conscious organism O*, it is unclear what adaptive advantage consciousness could provide.[90]

(source: Wikipedia: Consciousness)



   
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March 5th, 2012, 09:21 PM

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So, you have to explain why a SENTIENT stimulus-response system (i.e. an "organic robot WITH consciousness") was naturally selected over an INSENTIENT stimulus-response system (i.e. an "organic robot WITHOUT consciousness").
Because the robot with consciousness will strive harder to survive. This robot believes in the existence of itself. The conscious mind is afraid of the unknown and death is the ultimate unknown.

Also, the conscious robot will have a better understanding of itself and it's environment (since it separates them) and therefore take better care of itself. It is a significantly more sophisticated and intelligent robot.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 09:52 PM

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You're describing pantheism, not atheistic materialism.
Wasn't trying to define atheistic materialism, was more getting at pan-deism or panendeism, but pantheism is actually somewhat close from a consciousness sense.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 09:58 PM

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So, you have to explain why a SENTIENT stimulus-response system (i.e. an "organic robot WITH consciousness") was naturally selected over an INSENTIENT stimulus-response system (i.e. an "organic robot WITHOUT consciousness").
Because the robot with consciousness will strive harder to survive. This robot believes in the existence of itself. The conscious mind is afraid of the unknown and death is the ultimate unknown.
On the materialist view, "will-power" reduces to electro-chemical processes BLINDLY playing themselves out. There is no real goal that these electro-chemical processes are striving for. It only has the appearance of "striving;" it only has the illusion of purposeful behavior. Electro-chemical processes cannot exhibit true purposeful behavior.

You're presupposing final causation (teleology) when the materialist view only permits efficient causation; you're presupposing free will when the materialist view precludes its very possibility.

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Also, the conscious robot will have a better understanding of itself and it's environment (since it separates them) and therefore take better care of itself. It is a significantly more sophisticated and intelligent robot.
We already have robots (silicon-based) that can process sensory data (auditory, visual, etc.) and navigate their environment. No consciousness is required.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 10:13 PM

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You're describing pantheism, not atheistic materialism.
Wasn't trying to define atheistic materialism, was more getting at pan-deism or panendeism, but pantheism is actually somewhat close from a consciousness sense.
Then you agree with the point that I made in the OP - namely, that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution cannot explain why consciousness was naturally selected.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 10:23 PM

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A visible characteristic or trait (e.g. stripes on a tiger) may confer some survival benefit. An invisible (and causally inert) one cannot.
I note you had to keep the qualifier “and causally inert” coupled with the “invisible”. I still maintain that that “invisibility” has squat to do with it. For example, a better sense of smell (which could be externally indistinguishable) can lead to more food. Better eyesight (very possibly invisible to others) can do the same. Invisibly improved hearing is good for detecting and avoiding predators.
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No, you don't. You're simply presupposing "free will" (as I stated in the OP) and therefore some form of dualism.
If I see a predator approaching, and have consciousness, I can take evasive action. If I have no consciousness, I become lunch. Big difference in terms of survival benefit.



   
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March 5th, 2012, 10:33 PM

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The problem here is that you're NOT assuming the mechanistic worldview on which materialism (and the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution) is predicated. The materialist views living organisms literally (not metaphorically) as "organic robots." So, you have to explain why a SENTIENT stimulus-response system (i.e. an "organic robot WITH consciousness") was naturally selected over an INSENTIENT stimulus-response system (i.e. an "organic robot WITHOUT consciousness"). Unless you're willing to ascribe some kind of "feeling awareness" to all "stimulus-response systems," then it logically follows that "feeling awareness" is not required for a "stimulus-response system" to respond to environmental stimuli.

Academic philosophers typically employ the concept of a "philosophical zombie" (rather than an "organic robot" or a "stimulus-response system") to make the same point.

This really is an issue that is far from settled in the scientific world. There are many theories, none by a consensus.

I however like to think that consciousness is the direct result of having the capacity to solve complex problems. Problem solving was the main reason for brain size to increase.....in this increase there were different mutations which at the time were likely not related to solving problems, but could have just been a random mutation in a family/tribe and was followed by a catastrophe that destroyed a significant portion of humans/prehumans and allowed this tribe holding this mutation to continue to flourish, through blind luck, or divine providence, however you would like to view it.

Natural selection does not always bring about the best prepared creatures to survive outright, only to survive the time, and with a lack of predators due to us killing them and a lack of rivals, a single tribe could have exploded in population, creating offspring all holding this mutation. From that the creation of language could come about, which would be furthered by natural selection, those who could communicate and understand your communications during a coordinated hunt of large prey, would have been selected. I do feel that complex language is unachievable by the "zombie". The proof is somewhat in the pudding, natural selection has worked. Humans are the unquestioned dominant complex life form on the planet....that fact alone has some merit towards self-awareness itself being a desirable trait, and would survive.

There is also one other possibility that holds water for me. That self awareness is a learned trait. That we are not self aware by nature, but through cultural influences, influences that have been created and passed down for nearly 100,000 years. That we are not born this way but taught to be. If a baby is raised feral are they self aware? Or are they, to go with Neo-Darwinian's term, zombies? We may be the only creature capable of the awareness we have, but that doesn't mean we have it by simply existing. And there are many Darwinian style reasons that cultures were created, that tribes were formed and over time language became more and more advanced and we became more and more civilized and self aware. It's hard to live in the mind and ask questions for any creature that spends 100% of it's time awake trying to merely stay alive, being self aware may have just been a cultural byproduct of having free time.



   
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